Kim Janey made history Monday when she became the first woman and the first Black person named mayor of Boston, Massachusetts. Janey was appointed acting mayor after former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh resigned to become the United States Secretary of Labor.
Walsh said that he had been in talks with Janey for the past two months to ensure there would be a smooth transition once he departed. Janey, 55, congratulated Walsh on his new role, stating “the working people of America will benefit greatly from your passion.”
Janey is no stranger to breaking barriers. According to the Associated Press, in 2017 she was the victor in a 13-candidate race and became the very first woman to represent her district. She started working with Massachusetts Advocates for Children, where she was the driving force behind policies that would ensure equality for students attending Boston public schools.
“My first thought is the irony of it all, because of Boston’s history with racism and resisting change,” activist Perry Redd told ESSENCE. “That part amazes me. I see a challenge for her that is beyond her tenure or her term.” Redd added that Janey’s new role is similar to Barack Obama becoming the first Black president. “When he became the first Black president, even at the end of his second term, White Americans were still resistant to the idea of his legitimacy,” Redd said. “Ms. Janey is not going to significantly change Boston, and not that that’s her goal. Her objective is to serve, but what is shown here in her election is that the demographics of America are changing so that that the dominant class in this country cannot overcome the will of the people who are in it.”
At this time there are three women actively running to become mayor of Boston, city councilors Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George. If Janey also decides to run for the office, there is a good chance that she would be in a better position to win as the current acting mayor.
“It is a sad commentary on America that it will be dragged kicking and screaming into its own reality,” Redd said. “That White people will not be the majority race in this country. It is justice that race is being diminished as a barrier, as a separation of a melting pot of people. I’m of the mind that the first that we are encountering, every week it’s a new first. One it is a sad commentary of America’s resistance to equality. Two, it is a snapshot of America’s resistance to move into its own reality of the future. Three, it presents the greatest struggle for people who are unconscious who don’t believe they can be affected by racism until they are.”
Janey’s swearing in ceremony is scheduled to take place on Wednesday and, although she has not mentioned whether or not she plans to run for office, things are “changing little by little,” Perry said. “These firsts are so important and need to be elevated at every turn.”